|What's waiting in the night at the end of the tunnel? I truly do not know.|
Once, riding my bike through a similar tunnel along the canal at night, three kids tried to drop a mattress on me, for example. I was booking along about 20 mph (those tunnels have downhill entrances) and it could have severely injured me if they had timed it better.
When I heard the WHUMP! behind me, looked back and saw them laughing, it scared me. Made me shake to think what almost happened. Made me initially want to yell back at them, go back and be a monster right back at them. That would have been stupid in so many ways, but it is what I pictured, actually pictured, in my vivid visual-oriented brain: whip the bike around, charge at them yelling like a crazy man, blitz them and put them down.
Of course I did not do that. Nor would it have played out in any predictable way, but would have been some form of bad. How about wheel around and dial 911? For some reason, I didn't have my cell phone. I just kept riding, which often seems like the best choice, and warned a few riders I encountered of what might be up ahead.
Watch out, there are kids above the tunnel dropping a mattress.
I do think the world would be better if that was a sentence I never had to say to anyone. But, obviously based on the facts right before our eyes, people all around us make these kinds of mistakes all the time. That's how I look at it: the kids dropping a mattress onto passing cyclists were making a mistake. Committing an error. For example, for me to choose to turn around and go and confront them would almost certainly have been an error. A bad decision. I admit that.
What I also admit is that, for a few seconds right as it was happening, that would have felt natural to do. That was my choice, my decision, my reality to make or change, and I would be held accountable for it. No one else. I blame no one but myself for what would have happened next. It's on me. I kept riding down the path.
|Just a duck couple waddling along the path, right?|
Those little extra levels of vigilance exact a cost in terms of taking away from the experience of watching the bats skim the water for insects in the dying light, for example. It can knock down the high of flying through the darkness. Fear rising to that level can dominate the emotional landscape. The only thing I've found to counteract that is to think about radiating joy, peace, and forgiveness. To expect people to be people and to expect them, therefore, to make mistakes and errors all the time.
To know that we are all, particularly in our interactions with the physical world and with each other, and also even within our own minds towards ourselves, accidents waiting to happen. Clumsy, error-prone and imperfect beings who screw up all the time. With that knowledge, coupled with the desire for joy and happiness, the only reasonable response is to forgive those errors. Let go the rage and embrace peace. It's not easy, it's necessary.
OK, the duck couple. I saw them waddling down the path together and snapped some telephoto shots. As I got closer, I learned they were actually actors in a tense drama. It seems that they have developed a habit of munching the delicious greens being cultivated in the garden of a gourmet restaurant. Mr and Mrs Duck have apparently developed a taste for arugula, watercress, winter greens, and fresh herbs. Perhaps dressed with a lovely vinaigrette.
I saw an encounter brewing between Mr and Mrs Duck and the restauranteur himself. "Those ducks are back," a woman with him said, as they exited the establishment and began walking slowly toward the birds. The ducks paused, and the continued boldly onwards, making for the greens. Perhaps they were hungry. Do ducks' mouths water?
I slowed to a stop to see what would happen. Man on duck violence? Shouting? Defense of greens? A precipitous plot to poison the parsnips, perhaps? No, none of those. The restauranteur said, "Time to get out the chicken wire again, I suppose."
I think about those things: ducks being ducks, people making mistakes, restauranteurs stringing chicken wire to protect the serving of the fresh winter greens dressed in a delightful vinaigrette. When it works, when the tension is held but not released, when tolerance and understanding prevail, I take joy from that. The vigilance can be somewhat relaxed, the tunnel up ahead passed through with a little less concern.
These feelings come about not because there is peace, but because people choose to give it. To make it, as a state of action and a conscious choice, unstopping and unfailing, in the face of certain human fallibility. No one is perfect. But peace, joy, forgiveness, thankfulness, it feels to me like these give us a glimpse of what perfection is like, and allow us to feel some of it not only alone, but with each other.
Give peace, give joy, forgive us our imperfections, and be thankful. No one can live that all the time, but all of us can know that it's what we are supposed to do. Happy Thanksgiving.